There was a time I walked on Coals.
It was a one of the most surreal moments in my life. There I stood under an eclipsed moon in a large wooded campground. The air was surprisingly clear due to the heat from the fire raising up into the night sky. It had been a large fire which we had raked out into an even larger circle of smouldering bits. The coals still shifting in hues of red, orange and black.
There were about a dozen of us there gathered. We were dressed in brightly coloured sarongs and bits of clothing with our eyes wide and sweat upon our brows. We danced and sang as we circled the bed of coals trying to goad ourselves the courage to cross.
Each of us was pulled aside to speak to the medicine woman who was leading the ritual. She would give us all whispered words of encouragement and a smudging of thick fragrant sage. It was a building up of internal pressure as we all waited to see which one of us would dare the crossing. Which one of us would go first?
And then in a moment of action – I did.
Mind racing, feet moving, I trotted my path over the flickering coals to hoots and calls from the others. The tension broke and things seemed to happen in a flurry then. Here and there people were taking the plunge and testing themselves against their own fears.
As I stood there staring into the woods with my chest heaving with excitement and feet cooling in the dew flecked grass, I thought about what had brought me here. What journey brings someone to this point in their lives?
We had spent almost six hours preparing for this ritual of cleansing. It seemed to be over in minutes.
Yet something like that never leaves you. It stays with you, buried down into your every core. It follows you home and becomes a part of you. It’s a primal thing that crosses time and ignores the modern world.
The reason why I was there was complicated and simple. I needed something that I couldn’t quite understand and I hoped that somehow this ritual would find it for me. It’s the same old story just through different eyes. We all had our own reasons to risk the burn for some sort of self medication. We came in to fight a battle with our own personal inner demons and came through triumphant on the other side. We walked over fire and were forged into something stronger for it.
That was a while ago. A few years in fact.
Recently I heard of the death of that medicine woman who led our firewalk. She was a lovely woman and a powerful memory in my mind. It brought the power of that moment back to me – as only strong memories can. Flushed with time and longing for that feeling again of that fragrant sage and the crisp air and crackling flames.
We lose ourselves in modern things sometimes and forget that we aren’t creatures of synthetic and wire. Sometimes we are so tangled up in our computers, cellphones, and digital conveniences that we forget what it is to be inside of our own skin. We are a society that has forgotten the healing power of ritual and rebirth.
There was a time I walked on coals. It was dangerous and brilliant. We smelled of burnt sage and woodsmoke and all of our feet were ashen. We were a tribe of kindred souls that were reborn from our burdens.
There was a time when a medicine woman asked what I was afraid of and told me that I was powerful – if only I allowed myself to be.
And inside of me that ember still smoulders. I wonder sometimes if the others still feel as powerfully for that memory as I do. I wonder if they’ve all gone back to their modern lives and buried that ember within technology and society.
Part of me likes to believe we’re all still that wild primal tribe inside. No matter where we’ve come from or what we’ve experienced in our lives; maybe that is what we all are at our core? Just a bunch of people trying to burn through our inner struggles and constantly being reborn from the ashes.
Maybe we are all simply waiting for our moment to walk the coals and overcome whatever holds us back.